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Keys to Getting Protective Glove Sizing Right

Jun 6th, 2018

For most consumers, traditional glove sizes of small, medium, large or extra large will suffice for shoveling the driveway, skiing or keeping hands warm on a cold steering wheel. But, there are other instances when the fit of a glove must be more precise and is far more important. Protective gloves, often used by the military, need to be snug enough not to fall off, but not so tight that they’re uncomfortable. Dexterity can also be important, depending on the tasks the wearer needs to complete. When faced with obstacles like fire, chemicals, extreme cold or high altitude, the importance of the right glove fit is more important than ever.

Anthrotech Experience with Glove Sizing Projects

We have completed many projects related to glove sizing over the years, so much so that our own Bruce Bradtmiller has become a glove sizing expert. We’ll focus on three of those here:  two for the U.S. Army and one for the U.S. Navy. These projects took place over several years in the 1990’s.

For our first project for the Army, we helped to develop the Intermediate Cold Wet Glove. This was a multi-purpose winter glove designed specifically to work in wet, cold conditions. We were able to determine a glove sizing system using hand and finger dimensions from the comprehensive ANSUR survey (short for an anthropometric survey) that we had completed in 1988.

Photo courtesy of: Centex Tactical Gear

The second project for the Army centered around the Improved Chemical Protective Glove. The development of this glove made use of the ANSUR hand data, as well. We worked with another consulting firm that identified new chemical protective materials and put together the program to create the new gloves. Anthrotech developed the sizing system and was instrumental in testing both the sizing and the entire glove ensemble, as well.

Our project for the Navy involved a new flight glove that required an innovative design making use of chemical heat packs, a liquid bladder and fire-retardant materials for the outer layer.

Photo courtesy of: Amazon

Glove Sizing Challenges

Getting the right fit for a glove is particularly challenging for a number of reasons. The circumference and lengths of the fingers both vary somewhat independently of the size of the hand. Also, the palm to hand proportions vary among ethnic groups. Finally, female and males can have differences in finger circumference.

One challenge we faced in particular for the Navy gloves was that multiple layers needed to be considered. We had to do sizing for each glove layer individually and then work to make sure they all fit together in one, single glove. Each of the layers involved different materials, and the “ease” (the difference between the size of the body part and the size of the item being worn) needed to be developed specifically for each layer.

Utilizing Linear Hand/Finger Dimensions to Produce the Right Pattern

Historically, glove patterns were made by starting with a previous glove pattern, without respect to original anthropometric data. Because of that history, there was no established process to go from hand and finger dimensions to pattern pieces for a finished glove.

Since our clients were firm believers in the importance of using anthropometric data in design, they insisted on basing the new designs on solid anthropometric data. That was a good thing, and since there was no established process, we were instrumental in developing that method. We worked with colleagues at Knoxville Glove Company – our manufacturing partner for all these projects – and there we figured out how to translate linear hand and finger dimensions into glove pattern pieces. This was especially innovative and required substantial trial and error. Eventually, we worked out the kinks and were able to produce the right patterns based on these dimensions. This inventive process was used very successfully in numerous subsequent glove programs.


While glove sizing for consumer manufacturers may be relatively simple, sizing for protective gloves can be much more challenging. Still, by utilizing accurate, in-depth data and analyzing how each product is intended to fit and function, we help ensure some of the most important gloves in the world fit with ease and comfort.

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